Reading for fun and gaming: The Rajah from Hell

H. Bedford-Jones was known as The King of the Pulps, and no kidding.diary
Granted, some other authors are much more popular today, but Bedford-Jones was one of the most prolific, varied, consistently good and long-lived authors in the field. He transitioned easily to the slick classy magazines, and today, a lot of his work can be found reprinted by small presses that cater for the pulp fiction aficionados.
And they are a great source of inspiration for pulp-inspired games.

Consider, if you will, The Rajah from Hell, as published by Black Dog Books

rajah_from_hell_websiteH. Bedford-Jones
The Rajah from Hell
Black Dog Books, 2012

Set in 1946 America, this collection of four stories provides an interesting take on the “Fiendish Oriental” character – replacing the evil Chinese mastermind with a cold and vengeful Indian, basically crossing teh Fu Manchu cliché with Captain Nemo‘s mystique.

A quick, very fun read, the short serial features

  • an evil mastermind

  • a hit list of marked victims, one per episode

  • a lone hero to the rescue

  • a love interest

  • a Hindu gang/cult of killers

  • exoticism

  • a race against time

Drawbacks

  • this is not politically correct, not in the least

In a nutshell

. A ruthless man seeking vengeance: an Indian prince wrongly accused of a crime

. The Hit List: the four men that profited by his incarceration are going to pay

. Imaginative deaths: you are a lone man hell-bent on vengeance, you can’t limit yourself to the usual bag of tricks… poisons, drugs, strangely-shaped knives… this one features it all

. The clock is ticking: foiling the Rajah’s plot means getting to his victims before he does

. The long hand of the Si Fan: or whatever they call themselves, the Rajah from Hell has an army of Hindu criminals doing his bidding

. Your mission, should you decide to accept it: stop him and bring him to justice!

. The nice twist: your adversary actually respects you and won’t kill you!

. … and a side serving of: moral ambiguity; because after all he was wrongly accused and incarcerated.

While the action is set in 1946, this one is easily adaptable to any colonial or post-colonial setting.
Works fine with pulp games and of course with a quick injection of Mythos, it turns into a great Call of Cthulhu mini-campaign.
But what about moving this back to the time of the Mughals and do a short mini-campaign for The Savage World of Solomon Kane? Now that would be neat!
A steampunk variation would not be that hard – and indeed I read this book not only because I love the pulps, but also as research for GreyWorld.
It’s good doing research like this!

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